Does Social Security Pay for Funeral Expenses in 2023?

Last Updated: January 18, 2023 5 min read
Author: Zach L.

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Social Security pays for funeral expenses with a $255 death benefit, but it isn’t enough to cover the average funeral price in the United States of America.

Does Social Security Pay for Funeral Expenses?

As funeral costs in the United States have grown to a staggering average cost of $9,135, many Americans are looking to offload some of that cost. The Social Security program typically pays a $255 death payment to either the widow, widower, or child of the deceased.

Eligibility for Social Security Lump Sum Death Benefit

To be eligible for the $255 lump-sum death benefit from Social Security, a few criteria must be met. First, the surviving spouse has to be living in the same household. If they were not living in the same domicile then there are more stringent criteria to be met.

The second is that if there is no eligible spouse the lump-sum payment may go to the decedent’s child or children. Thirdly, to qualify the survivor must have been recorded receiving benefits on the work record of the deceased, or be eligible for benefits now that the deceased has passed on.

If the survivor meets all of those qualifications then they have up to two years to claim the death benefit.

Use a Medicare MSA to Pay for Your Funeral

If you are looking for other options to pay for your funeral and lift the burden from your heirs, it is possible to use a Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA). The MSA is one of a few Medicare Advantage plans that create a bank account that can be used for health expenses. Only four insurers offer MSA plans, which limits the states that can offer MSA plans to less than 20.

When you pass away, if there are still funds remaining in the account they will join your other funds in your estate and could be used to cover your final expenses. Keep in mind that funeral prices continue to rise, so your funds may not be enough.

Eligibility for Survivor’s Benefits

Eligibility for Survivor’s Benefits

In a few rare cases, a child under the age of 18, a child that is disabled, a divorced spouse of the deceased, or the surviving spouse of the decedent may be eligible for survivor benefits via Social Security. This is a rare case, as the complex requirements are vast.

The actual payment that is received comes monthly just like standard Social Security benefits. The amount of the payment is dependent on two factors.

  1. Decedent’s income. When the worker passed away, what was their income at the time of death?
  2. Age of benefit receiver. If the receiver of benefits has reached full retirement age, then they are eligible for the full amount of the benefit. If they are of a younger age, they are eligible for anywhere from 71.5% to 99% of the base benefit

To review the eligibility requirements and the value of the benefits you can find them on the Social Security Survivor’s Benefits Planner page.

Alternative Methods to Pay for Funeral Expenses

Most likely $255 isn’t going to cover your final expenses. Final expenses include things like paying the funeral home, medical expenses, burial expenses, funeral services, etc. When the death benefit was added in the 1930s $255 pretty much paid for all of that. With the average cost of a funeral over $9,000, the unchanging death benefit from almost 100 years ago hasn’t caught up.

Here are a few ways you can be prepared for your final expenses, and spare your family from the financial burden.

  • Invest starting today. Grow an investment portfolio that is earmarked to more than pay for your end-of-life expenses. That could be real estate, stocks, private businesses, etc
  • Life insurance policy. There are many life insurance policies out there specifically to cover your final expenses. Then your family will have all the financial assistance they need
  • Plan your funeral. If you have your burial costs or cremation costs, funeral arrangements, etc all planned out in your funeral plan you have a good idea of how much that costs. A lot of those things can be prepaid and ready to go when the time comes

Does Social Security pay a death benefit?

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Social Security pay a death benefit?

Social Security may pay a death benefit to the survivors of a family member who passes away. If the worker who passed away had worked long enough to qualify for benefits, you and your family members could be eligible for benefits determined by the earnings of the deceased.

How much does Social Security allow for funeral expenses?

Social Security typically pays a lump-sum death payment of $255 to the surviving spouse or child of the deceased. The lump-sum death payment can be applied for by contacting the Social Security Administration (online or at your local social security office).

How do you get the burial money from Social Security?

To get the burial money from Social Security you need to contact the Social Security Administration. You also need to be either the surviving spouse or the child of the beneficiary to claim the one-time death benefit.

Does everyone get a $250 death benefit from Social Security?

The $255 Social Security death benefits are only able to be collected by the surviving spouse, or the child of the deceased. This can be claimed by contacting the Social Security Administration.

Final Thoughts

Social Security covers funeral expenses, but only a little bit. That means that the one-time payment from the federal government isn’t going to be enough and you should plan ahead.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not a solicitation of insurance.